I remember my first bout of anxiety like it was yesterday. I was playing cards with my friends, and I started having paranoid thoughts.
My mind was racing. My heart felt like it sunk into my stomach and then it felt like it was going to jump out of my throat. My palms were sweating.
How do I get out of this situation? Do I run? Do I hide? What do I do? If I do this then this could happen? And so on so on went the conversation. The overthinking was crippling. By the time I got up to move I cold barely walk.
I was a mess.
For me this was the beginning of a long road. I could give you hundreds of stories about panic attacks and anxiety, but if you’re reading this I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking.
Anxiety was part of my life for a very long time, at that point I didn’t even know what it was. And this was before it was “common” or should I say, amongst everyones vocabulary.
These days 99% of people know what anxiety is. There’s even Anxiety awareness programs.
Now I believe the term is perhaps overused. But let’s not go down that track.
Lets start this off by having a look at the definition of anxiety.
Anxiety | aŋˈzʌɪəti |
1 a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome
2 [with infinitive] strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen:
Anxious comes from the latin anxius, angere meaning ‘to choke’
According to beyond blue anxiety is the number one mental health condition in Australia. That says something.
The general go to understanding of anxiety is that it is a normal response to stress. However when it doesn’t go away, thats anxiety.
Here are a list of signs and symptoms said to be associated with anxiety.
- Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
- Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
- Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life
To sum it up, Anxiety affects and is affected by, Body, Mind, and Environment.
I remember when I was a kid and I would go up to my Mum and say, “Mummy I have butterflies in my stomach.”
“It’s ok sweety, your’e only nervous”
But why did the butterflies become reptilian overlords who controlled and manipulated my every moment of life?
In Chinese Medicine, worry and overthinking are the emotions related to the Spleen. If our diet is full of cold, raw food or greasy food, the Spleen Qi becomes deficient and we can get a racey heart, tightening of the chest and shortness of breath.
Fear is associated with the Kidneys, and if we overwork and don’t get enough rest, the Kidney’s Yin becomes deficient. This can generate Heat, which will make you feel restless, wound up, edgy, and restless.
This ladies and gentleman is why our butterflies become reptilian overlords!
- Poor Diet
- Not enough quality rest
- Emotional disharmony
When we chronically eat a poor diet, overwork, don’t sleep well, rest well and regulate our emotional life, then we end up with Anxiety.
In a standard world we go to the doctor, and end up on either an anti depressant, or anti anxiety tablet, like Xanax.
These guys work, your mood can stabilise, and you can feel better, however from a Chinese Medicine perspective the root cause still hasn’t been addressed.
In the past I self medicated with Xanax and numerous other drugs and alcohol, which inherently made it worse in the long term. If you drink alcohol, either binge or in moderation on a regular basis, I can straight up tell you it’s contributing to your anxiety. I never thought alcohol was a problem until I completely wiped it out. Now I’ve been nearly 6 months alcohol free and the difference is amazing. Now i’m doing the same with coffee. I’m only 4 weeks into the coffee experiment so watch this space.
Now here’s the other option:
- Eat warm, nourishing foods – Warm foods, do exactly that, warm you up. A warm body equals a safe body. Soups, stews, curries, porridge, slow cooked meals, are easy to digest and delicious. Herbal medicine is another option that works to warm the body and keep the body feeling nourished and safe. It’s always best to have your herbs prescribed for you, instead of a “shotgun” approach that will come from the over the shelf supplements.
- Regulate your lifestyle – avoid overworking, treat work like you treat “the Rona”, keep it distant. Wash your hands, and make sure you’re done when you clock off. I highly recommend this book by my mentor Jost Sauer https://thelifestylemedicineman.com/product/make-your-life-better-with-lifestyle-medicine/
- Get Quality rest – Sleep well, nothing heals like sleep. If you’re not sleeping well getting your sleep regulated and sorted should become your number 1 wellness priority. Acupuncture is a great way of getting your body to down regulate the nervous system, and making sure your body is in a state of rest and digest. Also learning how to rest while working, that is by learning how to
- Regulate Emotions – breathing techniques, qi gong, yoga, martial arts, exercise are all ways of self regulating emotions. Also learning to identify the patterns that cause the triggers of Anxiety can be an absolute game changer. Removing yourself from the triggers, and identifying whether they are internal or external.
Anxiety, in my opinion, is as simple as our needs not being met. Whether they are real needs or perceived needs. The body can not tell the difference between real and perceived. A great approach to our needs is to look at our hierarchy of needs. Start at the bottom and work your way up. At bottom we have warmth, safety, food, water, air, sex, and connection. As it moves up we have things, like purpose and esteem. Then reaching out full potential. Have a look at your needs. Where are you on the list? Are they being met?
This has been my approach to treating my own Anxiety and others in the clinic for a number of years. It’s a process, with good days and bad days.
However these days for myself the “good days” far out weigh the number of “bad days”, and when I have a bad day I know that generally something from the list has been missing, and usually for more than a few days.
A lot of people comment on how calm, grounded and relaxed I am. I can tell you right now, I haven’t always been like that. I’m still no Zen Master however I can certainly tell you that feeling Zen is much more fun than feeling anxious, and taking ZenX (the above prescription) is the best prescription I’ve ever had! The best thing about this solution is: the cure is the same as the prevention.
We will never have control of the outcomes of life but we can take control of how we respond.
Before I leave you I’d like to point out if you are on medication for anxiety I DO NOT recommend you coming off them until you have a good period of time doing the above. My clients have told me they feel they’re medication works better when they put these things in place and then when they are feeling better, their prescribing practitioner is able to lower their dose, and they are able to come off them later down the track. There’s no one way, and everyone’s journey is always different.
Remember, the journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Surround yourself with people who can help and support you, get a team, go get second opinion and most importantly believe in yourself.
If you’d like to book an appointment to see if we can work together to work on your issues with Anxiety you can book here.
The Sun will shine a light on the darkness and show you the door way, you need to be brave enough to step through the door. I’ll be waiting in the next room and would love to support you on the journey.